‘Talking cars’ technology to help drivers avoid deadly crashes

US officials plan to make carmakers equip new cars and light trucks with technology that lets vehicles communicate with each other in a bid to avoid deadly crashes.

A radio beacon would continually transmit a vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information. Cars would receive the same information back from other vehicles, and a vehicle’s computer would alert the driver to an impending collision. Some systems may automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been working with carmakers for the past decade, estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80% of crashes that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure.

The technology holds the “game-changing” potential to prevent crashes in the first place, while the government’s focus until now has been on ensuring accidents are survivable, David Friedman, the head of the safety administration, said at a news conference.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the Obama administration decided to announce its intention to require the technology in new vehicles to “send a strong signal to the (automotive industry) that we believe the wave of the future is vehicle-to-vehicle technology.”

However, it will still be a least several years and perhaps longer before manufacturers would have to put the technology in vehicles, officials said.

The safety administration plans to issue a report later this month on the results of its research, and then the public and carmakers will have 90 days to comment.

After that, regulators will begin drafting a proposal to require carmakers to equip new vehicles with the technology. That process could take months to years to complete, but Mr Foxx said he intends to issue the proposal before President Barack Obama leaves office. “It will change driving as we know it over time,” said Scott Belcher, president and chief executive of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

“Over time, we’ll see a reduction in crashes. Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash.”

Government officials declined to give an estimate for how much the technology would increase the price of a new car, but the transportation society estimate it would cost about $100-$200 per vehicle.

Carmakers feel there are important technical, security and privacy questions that need to be worked out first, said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

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